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Midas
Part of WS-117 Family
Midas W37 Sensor
Midas W37 Sensor
American military early warning satellite. Part of a then-secret USAF program known as WS-117L, the MIDAS (Missile Defense Alarm System) program began in November 1958. Early Warning satellite built by Lockheed (prime), Aerojet-General (payload) for USAF, USA. Launched 1962 - 1963.

AKA: Missile Defense Alarm System. Status: Operational 1960. First Launch: 1960-02-26. Last Launch: 1966-10-05. Number: 18 . Gross mass: 1,840 kg (4,050 lb).

It was terminated in the summer of 1966 after less than a dozen MIDAS satellites were put into orbit. MIDAS was intended to provide timely warning of an attack upon the United States by detecting and tracking the hot exhaust gases of enemy missiles at launch and during boost phase. But the sensor and processing technology of the time, and the constellation architecture, were not up to the task.

In the late 1950s, the advent of a Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile threat convinced the U.S. Air Force of the urgent need for a constellation of satellites that would provide timely warning of an imminent missile attack. MIDAS was at best a qualified success -- early problems included mistaking sunlight reflected from clouds as an enemy missile launch. The earliest satellites carried the Aerojet W-17, the first sensor to be deployed on operational MIDAS satellites. A later and more capable version, the Aerojet W-37 infrared early warning sensor, became the first space-based sensor to successfully detect a missile launched from Earth. This was the first sensor to be deployed on operational MIDAS satellites.

In the mid-1960s, MIDAS was supplanted by the USAF's Program 461 and subsequently by that service's highly successful deep space Defense Support Program early warning satellite system.


More at: Midas.

Family: Early Warning, Medium earth orbit, Military early warning sat, Surveillance. Country: USA. Engines: Bell 8081. Launch Vehicles: Atlas, Thor, Delta, Atlas Agena A, Thor Agena B, Atlas Agena B, Atlas SLV-3 Agena D. Launch Sites: Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral LC14, Vandenberg SLC1E, Vandenberg SLC3E. Agency: USAF. Bibliography: 126, 171, 172, 2, 278, 279, 6, 6708, 12834, 12835, 12836.
Photo Gallery

Discoverer 19Discoverer 19
Credit: Manufacturer Image


Midas 1Midas 1
Credit: Manufacturer Image


Midas 6Midas 6
Credit: Manufacturer Image


Midas 3Midas 3
Credit: Manufacturer Image


Midas 11Midas 11
Credit: Manufacturer Image



1957 Mar - .
  • WDD began feasibility studies on a missile launch detection alarm system (MIDAS) satellite that would provide early warning of hostile missile launches. - . Spacecraft: WS-117, Midas.

1959 September 18 - .
  • Headquarters USAF notified AFBMD that the Secretary of Defense, Neil H. McElroy, approved the transfer of MIDAS (Missile Detection Alarm System) and SAMOS (Satellite and Missile Observation System. - . Related Persons: , McElroy. Spacecraft: WS-117, Midas, Samos.

1959 September 23 - . LV Family: Polaris, Titan, Atlas, Thor, Jupiter, .
  • Once again, the Defense Department reorganized its space program. Primary responsibility for military space programs was assigned to the Air Force. - . Spacecraft: WS-117, Transit, Midas, Samos.

    ARPA retained responsibility for advanced research on missile defense, solid propellants, and several other projects. Existing projects were reassigned to the military services from ARPA - MIDAS and SAMOS to the Air Force,the Transit navigation satellite to the Navy, and NOTUS to the Army. These reassignments were not immediately effective, but the move toward Air Force development, production, and launching of military space vehicles was quite clear.


1959 October 21 - .
  • Secretary of Defense Neil H. McElroy officially approved assignment of the MIDAS and SAMOS programs to the Air Force and ARDC. - . Related Persons: , McElroy. Spacecraft: WS-117, Midas, Samos.

1959 November 17 - .
  • Based on the 23 September decision, all Defense Department satellite and space vehicle programs were to be reassigned to the military services of primary interest. - . Spacecraft: WS-117, Midas, Samos.

    The Discoverer, MIDAS, and SAMOS programs were approved for transfer back to AFBMD from ARPA. All three programs were originally part of the WS 117L program that AFBMD had managed from inception in 1956 until the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) had assumed responsibility on 30 June 1958.


1960 February 26 - . 17:25 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC14. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena A. FAILURE: Second stage failed to separate.. Failed Stage: U.
  • Midas 1 - . Payload: Midas / Agena TV 1008. Mass: 2,025 kg (4,464 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. Decay Date: 1960-02-26 .

    The Air Force MIDAS I satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral in the first successful launch of the Atlas D/Agena A booster-upper stage combination. MIDAS I, however, failed to achieve orbit because an accident at the Atlas-Agena staging damaged the Agena. The entire vehicle reentered and burned up about 2,500 miles downrange. Missile Defense Alarm System.


1960 May 24 - . 17:36 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC14. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena A.
  • Midas 2 - . Payload: Midas / Agena TV 1007. Mass: 2,300 kg (5,000 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. Decay Date: 1974-02-07 . USAF Sat Cat: 43 . COSPAR: 1960-Zeta-1. Apogee: 494 km (306 mi). Perigee: 473 km (293 mi). Inclination: 33.0000 deg. Period: 94.30 min.

    Missile Defense Alarm System. Test launch with W-17 sensor. The last Atlas D/Agena A booster to be used by the Air Force placed into orbit the MIDAS II infrared scanning satellite designed to detect and give early warning of missile launchings. Although intended to function for 40 months, the satellite's telemetry system failed on 26 May. MIDAS II was the first early warning satellite system placed in orbit.


1960 December 20 - . 20:32 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1E. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena B.
  • Discoverer 19 - . Payload: Midas test payload. Mass: 1,060 kg (2,330 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. Decay Date: 1961-01-23 . USAF Sat Cat: 68 . COSPAR: 1960-Tau-1. Apogee: 359 km (223 mi). Perigee: 186 km (115 mi). Inclination: 83.4000 deg. Period: 90.00 min. A Thor/Agena B vehicle successfully launched Discoverer XIX into a polar orbit from Vandenberg AFB. The spacecraft carried a Project MIDAS test payload. Tested IR sensors for Midas program; did not carry camera or film capsule. .

1961 February 18 - . 22:58 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1E. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena B.
  • Discoverer 21 - . Payload: Midas test payload. Mass: 1,110 kg (2,440 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. Decay Date: 1962-04-20 . USAF Sat Cat: 84 . COSPAR: 1961-Zeta-1. Apogee: 458 km (284 mi). Perigee: 212 km (131 mi). Inclination: 80.6000 deg. Period: 91.30 min. Tested IR sensors for Midas program; did not carry camera or film capsule..

1961 July 12 - . 15:11 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC3E. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena B.
  • Midas 3 - . Payload: Midas / Agena TV 1201. Mass: 1,600 kg (3,500 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. USAF Sat Cat: 163 . COSPAR: 1961-Sigma-1. Apogee: 3,540 km (2,190 mi). Perigee: 3,343 km (2,077 mi). Inclination: 91.2000 deg. Period: 161.40 min.

    MIDAS III (Missile Defense Alarm System) satellite was launched into polar orbit from Vandenberg AFB by the first Atlas D/Agena B booster (97D/#1201). This vehicle achieved a record 1,850-mile orbit and was the heaviest U.S. satellite put up to date. Missile Defense Alarm System.


1961 October 21 - . 13:53 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC3E. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena B.
  • Midas 4 - . Payload: Midas / Agena TV 1202. Mass: 1,800 kg (3,900 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. USAF Sat Cat: 192 . COSPAR: 1961-A-Delta-1. Apogee: 3,763 km (2,338 mi). Perigee: 3,482 km (2,163 mi). Inclination: 95.9000 deg. Period: 165.90 min. Missile Defense Alarm System. Deployed subsatellites..

1962 April 9 - . 15:04 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC3E. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena B.
  • Midas 5 - . Payload: Midas / Agena TV 1203. Mass: 1,860 kg (4,100 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. USAF Sat Cat: 271 . COSPAR: 1962-Kappa-1. Apogee: 3,405 km (2,115 mi). Perigee: 2,784 km (1,729 mi). Inclination: 86.7000 deg. Period: 152.90 min. Missile Defense Alarm System..

1962 September 8 - . LV Family: Titan.
  • Headquarters USAF announced that the Deputy Chief of Staff for Research and Development (DCS/R&D) would be the focal point for space projects within Headquarters USAF. - . Spacecraft: Dynasoar, Midas. Lt General James Ferguson, DCS/R&D, would possess Air Force headquarters responsibility for programs such as MIDAS, Titan III, Dyna-Soar, and others..

1962 December 17 - . 20:36 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC3E. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena B. FAILURE: Failure. Failed Stage: U.
  • Midas 6 - . Payload: Midas / Agena TV 1205. Mass: 2,000 kg (4,400 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. Decay Date: 1962-12-17 . Missile Defense Alarm System. Carried ERS-3, ERS-4 subsatellites..
  • TRS 4 - . Payload: ERS 4. Mass: 1,840 kg (4,050 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF AFSC. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas.
  • TRS 3 - . Payload: ERS 3. Mass: 1,840 kg (4,050 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF AFSC. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas.

1963 May 9 - . 20:06 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC3E. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena B.
  • Midas 7 - . Payload: Midas / Agena TV 1206. Mass: 2,000 kg (4,400 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. USAF Sat Cat: 574 . COSPAR: 1963-014A. Apogee: 3,680 km (2,280 mi). Perigee: 3,609 km (2,242 mi). Inclination: 87.3000 deg. Period: 166.40 min. MIDAS 7 was the first operational MIDAS mission and the first equipped with the W-37 sensor. During its six weeks of operation, MIDAS 7 recorded nine US ICBM launches, including the first missile launch ever detected from space..

1963 June 12 - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC3E. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena B. FAILURE: Failure. Failed Stage: U.
  • Midas 8 - . Payload: Midas / Agena TV 1204. Mass: 2,000 kg (4,400 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. Decay Date: 1963-06-12 . Missile Defense Alarm System. Carried ERS-7, ERS-8 subsatellites..
  • TRS 7 - . Payload: ERS 7. Mass: 1,840 kg (4,050 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF AFSC. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas.
  • TRS 8 - . Payload: ERS 8. Mass: 1,840 kg (4,050 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF AFSC. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas.

1963 July 19 - . 03:51 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC3E. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena B.
  • Midas 9 - . Payload: Midas / Agena TV 1207. Mass: 2,000 kg (4,400 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. USAF Sat Cat: 622 . COSPAR: 1963-030A. Apogee: 3,726 km (2,315 mi). Perigee: 3,676 km (2,284 mi). Inclination: 88.4000 deg. Period: 167.90 min. The final Air Force Atlas D/Agena B (75D/1207) was launched from Vandenberg AFB. Missile Defense Alarm System. Did not eject ERS 10 subsatellite..

1966 June 9 - . 20:10 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC3E. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas SLV-3 Agena D.
  • Midas 10 - . Payload: Midas RTS 1 / Agena TV 1351 / Agena D 1351 / OPS 1. Mass: 2,000 kg (4,400 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. Decay Date: 1966-12-03 . USAF Sat Cat: 2200 . COSPAR: 1966-051A. Apogee: 3,678 km (2,285 mi). Perigee: 154 km (95 mi). Inclination: 90.0000 deg. Period: 125.20 min. The first Atlas SLV-3/Agena D (7200 Series, Vehicle #7201) standard booster was successfully launched from Vandenberg. Missile Defense Alarm System. Left in transfer orbit..

1966 August 19 - . 19:26 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC3E. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas SLV-3 Agena D.
  • Midas 11 - . Payload: Midas RTS 2 / Agena TV 1352 / Agena D / OPS 0856. Mass: 2,000 kg (4,400 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. USAF Sat Cat: 2403 . COSPAR: 1966-077A. Apogee: 3,708 km (2,304 mi). Perigee: 3,658 km (2,272 mi). Inclination: 89.7000 deg. Period: 167.40 min. Missile Defense Alarm System..

1966 October 5 - . 22:00 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC3E. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas SLV-3 Agena D.
  • Midas 12 - . Payload: Midas RTS 3 / Agena TV 1353 / Agena D / OPS 1920. Mass: 2,000 kg (4,400 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Early warning satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Midas. USAF Sat Cat: 2481 . COSPAR: 1966-089A. Apogee: 3,724 km (2,313 mi). Perigee: 3,657 km (2,272 mi). Inclination: 89.8000 deg. Period: 167.60 min. Missile Defense Alarm System..


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